How Dance Enhances Childhood Emotional, Physical and Cognitive Development

Dance may very well be one of the most primal forms of human expression. As humans, before we could talk, we communicated through movement. These non-verbal forms of communication laid the mental groundwork for the development of spoken and written language. Children also have a strong connection to non-verbal forms of self expression which form the developmental foundation for their verbal communication skills. Children are also simply natural movers. They move to explore the world, to express their feelings and their thoughts, and they move simply for the joy of moving.

Children are Natural Dancers!

By enrolling a child into a dance program, you are fostering the child’s natural inclination toward movement. As children grow and develop, their movements become more self conscious and more sophisticated. Dance education seeks to cultivate this growing body awareness to aid social, cognitive and physical development. Here are just some of the benefits dance can offer a growing child:

* Dance enhances a child’s learning skills. Children are wired to learn from their experiences. Kinesthetic learning (the act of learning by carrying out a physical activity) , the kind of learning that occurs in a dance studio, is by definition learning by doing. When children are presented with an abstract dance problem, they are encouraged to think it through with a kinesthetic solution. This form of learning tends to resonate the strongest with children and the cognitive learning skills that they develop in the dance studio can be carried over into the classroom as they develop their ability to think through abstract problems.

* Dance encourages an active lifestyle. This is particularly important for children who do not gravitate toward hardcore sports. As children grow up and are acculturated to our modern sedentary lifestyle, without the encouragement to lead a healthy lifestyle, kids will tend to gravitate toward computer games, television and other activities which keep them immobile. Children on the dance floor, however, can burn as much as 200 calories an hour, making dance an important factor in childhood weight management and preventing childhood obesity.

* Dance requires a greater range of physical skills than most other sports; including great levels of flexibility, coordination, strength and endurance, it is often the most ideal physical activity to involve a child for physical development. Dance develops all of these vectors of physical development through the teaching of movement patterns and the development of kinesthetic memory (or muscle memory), which are highly flexible and adaptable to whatever skills a child needs to develop most.

* Dance helps a young person to develop his or her psychological and emotional maturity. Kids will begin to develop awareness of themselves and of other dancers and learn how to adapt their creative expression to the appropriate cues and environment. More importantly, dance can help shape a child’s emotional memories in a positive and productive setting.

* Dance helps children to think through multiple solutions and multiple perspectives. The magic of dance is in creative variety. Children will become aware that there are a variety of ways to approach a creative problem and that the real world often does not have solid black and white solutions.

In addition to these general developmental benefits of dance, each particular style of dance has its own unique benefits.  Ballet will help children to develop better posture, increase their flexibility and offer technique training to improve body alignment and dance technique. The often improvised and impromptu jazz dance style invites dancers to develop their improvisational skills. In order to master this style of dancing, you must be able to develop a high level of social awareness of other dancers and be able to quickly react to others dancing and improvise with congruent dance movements. Additionally, students also learn how to adapt their movements to different music styles and pacing, thereby developing their listening skills. Hip Hop is a very vigorous and powerful form of dance which will help children to develop their physical strength, musicality and stamina. Since it is one of the forms of dance which require the most stamina and endurance, it will also develop a child’s cardiovascular health. Tap dancing is particularly beneficial to children in that it will develop their sense of rhythm and timing. Tap dance requires a great deal of leg and foot coordination and the complicated footwork in tap dancing will strengthen a child’s mind-body connection.

The benefits of dance for a growing child are almost endless. But most importantly, children find a great deal of pleasure and joy from dance. This may be the most important benefit of all!

About Shannon Thomas

Author Shannon Thomas is a dance instructor in Daytona Beach, FL. Shannon began dancing at the age of 4 at Debco School of Dance now known as Amanda's Dance Center. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, lyrical, acrobatics, modern, and musical theater. Shannon attended The Ann Lacy School of Dance and Arts Management at the prestigious Oklahoma City University. She has danced professionally for Shows in a Box Entertainment, The World of Magic and more. She is currently choreographing and teaching dance in the Daytona Beach area.
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